Two months into the year 2020 and the unprecedented happened. The novel coronavirus pandemic literally brought the world to a standstill. As the government made it mandatory for everyone to be homebound, holidays and annual travel plans had to be dropped. Life changed and what I thought would stay for a month or two has been going on till now.
Nine months have passed now in the new ‘normal’. When last month our closest family friends popped the idea of a trip to Goa, I was apprehensive. Though the economy had opened up I still felt it safe to entertain myself only with the occasional drive around the city or visit to open parks.
However, when I saw everyone around me in the ‘life-has-to- go-on mode’ I decided to wear my travel boots. After all, fear feeds on fear and even the medical fraternity had given the go-ahead to resume normal lives, albeit with precautions.
I was also excited to meet our friends after months of isolation. Goa, India’s greatest beachside destination is my all-time favourite. Whether it’s the party-loving person or the adventure traveller or someone longing for a quiet time-out, Goa is the perfect sojourn. So, I too decided I needed this trip and started putting together the Do’s and Don’ts of the travel. Traveling during the pandemic was a different experience with safety as the topmost priority at all times.
We embarked on our first ever road journey to Goa. We chose to go by our private vehicles as they felt the safest. This way, we could ensure social distancing and keep any risks of the virus at bay. We first drove to Pune and stayed at our friends’ overnight as traveling from Pune instead of Mumbai cut short the journey by 2.5- 3 hours. We started for Goa early the next morning to avoid the rush of traffic on the highway. Masks, frequent sanitisation, and social distancing were practised with utmost sincerity all through the ten-hour drive. The road journey to Goa was marvellous.
The landscape changed hues as we moved from Maharashtra to Karnataka and entered Goa. The four lanes of Maharashtra suddenly gave way to the hilly ghats and the greenery and forest areas of northern Karnataka and Goa making the transformation a treat to eyes. Most importantly, it felt great to be out of our homes! A flat tyre delayed our journey by an hour, but the fact that it happened right in front of a car repair garage made me chuckle that God wanted us to be on this journey! Jokes apart, the pandemic called for some adjustments and we made just one stop in the ten-hour journey when we had our lunch at a restaurant. We had also carried cutlery and some food from home which the restaurant people were ready to accommodate.
In Goa, we had booked a two-storied house Soul Villa BetalBatim that we booked through Airbnb for six nights and seven days. We felt it safer to stay at an apartment than a hotel. The pandemic had led to slashed prices everywhere and Goa was no exception. The accommodation was a two minutes walk from BetalBatim beach in South Goa. The home-like accommodation was easily the best part of our trip.
The days went by like an extended picnic in the large house. We would do yoga, go on walks around the spacious campus, or just sit around and spend time together. The children loved to be out after ages. We had done a lot of cooking at home during the lockdown and were happy to do the same here.
How situations change everyone. The pandemic has made all of us self-sufficient in household chores. Men got used to helping around the house. It was no longer a drudge to cook even on a holiday because we were just so happy to be out of our homes. We loved trying out new recipes and as we all know, Goan cuisine is incomplete without fish. Sea fish was an everyday attraction at the lunch and dinner table. Once my husband and our friend enthusiastically made it to the local wholesale fish market at 6 am. We tried fish like Tiger prawns, Bass, Pomfret, and Red Snapper. The shacks had just opened and we enjoyed some of our meals at these shacks too.
Goa indeed is a tourist destination with international standards because of its eateries. It was good to see businesses trying to open up. At one restaurant, we struck a conversation with the manager and he good-humouredly told us how he was doubling up as a waiter too as he was short of manpower.
The biggest advantage of taking our own vehicle was the freedom to go anywhere and at any time. The long drives at night to nearby beaches, spending hours gazing at the relatively empty beaches, trying out different seafood, and having ample time for relaxation made the vacation perfect. During our stay, a local cleaner lady would come to sweep and mop the house every day. The in-house laundry and drying facilities made the stay very comfortable.
In all the places we crossed in our journey, it was reassuring to see people and businesses adhere to Covid protocols. The emptiness on the beaches did seem unusual. The stigma attached to the virus was also palpable as one hawker lady tried hopelessly to convince me that she wasn’t infected and I could take a closer look at her products.
Diwali was subdued in Goa. We decided to light up our ‘home’. Though our temporary abode, the holiday home had given us memories to last forever.
Contributor: Anusmita Dutta
About our Writing Program Student
A former writing program student, Anusmita works as the Content Head in GetAConnect.in. She started her career in the e-learning industry but moved on to writing in the print and the web medium as well. She is also a Spoken English Tutor and a children’s storyteller.